Author: Harry Alsfine
From the trade deadline in 2015 to this past Sunday’s opt-out, Yoenis Cespedes has finally decided to end tumultuous career with the New York Mets.
The past 5 years have been fairly typical for the Mets and the fans. During this time, the Mets have achieved the highs of a National League pennant and back-to-back playoff appearances, and the lows of a ton of injuries, miscommunication, and losing. Yoensis Cespedes mirrors the Mets’ dysfunction over the last few seasons, but that’s not to say Mets fans should walk away with no positives from La Potencia’s 5-ish seasons in New York.
Just as it ended, Yo Cespedes’s Mets career got off to a strange start. First off, it nearly never happened. On July 29th, 2015, during a Mets-Padres game, it leaked that the Mets and Brewers had a deal in place to send outfielder Carlos Gomez to New York. Reports surfaced that part of the return for Milwaukee included Wilmer Flores. Now, Wilmer was literally in the middle of a game, and in classic Mets fashion, was left completely in the dark about the trade situation. He understandably became rather emotional; the Mets had signed him as a teenager and we're the only organization he had ever known. Thankfully that trade didn’t go through and the Mets pivoted to Cespedes, whom they acquired at the last second from Detroit.
To say Cespedes, a free agent at season’s end, made the most of his Mets opportunity would be an understatement. In 102 games for the Tigers leading up to the trade, Cespedes was hitting .293 with 18 HRs and 61 RBIs, solid production, and very in line with his career averages. But after the trade, he went off. In just 57 games Yo hit .287 with 17 bombs and 44 RBIs. Over a full season that’d be roughly 48 HRs and 125 RBIs. Big boy numbers. Cespedes helped the Mets reach the World Series that season and it was expected that someone, most likely not the usually cash-strapped Mets, would break the bank for Cespedes that offseason.
However, Cespedes did not find a long-term deal that winter and instead returned to New York on a 3 year $75M deal with an opt-out after the first season. 2016 was more of the same for Yo and the Mets; a bunch of homers and a postseason appearance.
Following 2016 the Mets had seen enough production and gave Cespedes the long term deal he had been waiting for. The terms were huge, 4 years $110M, and a full no-trade clause. Expectations were sky high and they were not reached.
2017 and ‘18 were disappointing for Cespedes and the Mets as a whole. In 2017, he played in just 81 games and the team struggled immensely, finishing with a 70-92 record. 2018 was the same. Another losing season and Cespedes played in just 38 games before his season ended due to injury. He needed surgery on both heels and had a tough rehab process ahead if he wanted to salvage his Mets career.
Unfortunately, things didn’t get better after 2018. On May 20th, 2019, while rehabbing at his ranch in Florida, Cespedes fractured his ankle during “an incident with a wild boar.” Yes, actually. A wild boar. The ankle fracture officially ended his 2019 season before it started. The Mets missed the playoffs.
2020 was more of the same absurdity. Ironically, just as he did during his entire Mets career, La Potencia brought highs and brought lows. On opening day, after not playing in a Major League game in over 2 years, Cespedes hit an absolute missile of an HR in the bottom of the 7th to give New York a 1-0 lead. That lone run would hold for a 1-0 final. As a fan, I was ecstatic. Cespedes is back and we have possibly the deepest and most dangerous lineup in the sport. But, just as I was preordering my Mets 2020 NL East champions t-shirt, things got weird.
This past Sunday the Mets released a troubling statement; Cespedes had not turned up for the game that day and was not in his hotel room. Of course, everyone was immediately concerned for Cespedes’s safety, but during the game his agent released a statement that he had opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-related concerns. Now, I fully support every athlete being given the choice to opt-out of their respective seasons and fully respect anyone who chooses to do so. But, you cannot tell me that leaving without informing your team is the way to go about
it. The Mets should also receive some of the blame here for clearly having a complete lack of communication with a star player, and perhaps it was misguided to release a statement that he was missing. But this one still feels like it’s on Yoenis, and if he had simply informed the team of his decision beforehand he would have saved everyone from a lot of worries. Just like so many other bizarre instances during Cespedes’s Mets career, one can only shake their head and wonder what could have been.
It’s tough to completely blast Cespedes and his entire Mets career. Sure, the 4 years $110M deal has been an absolute catastrophe, but without Cespedes, in 2015 the Mets might not make the playoffs, let alone win the division and make it to the World Series. Technically, his Mets career is not officially over as the team could resign him this offseason. Now would that make any sense? No, not really, but this is the Mets we’re talking about so who knows. All I know is I HATE wild boars, and if someone could tell me what a wild boar is that’d be greatly appreciated. Are they native to the Cespedes ranch in Florida? Good luck with whatever’s next, La Potencia. I’ll never forget that neon yellow arm sleeve, and the home run you hit off Alex Wood in Game 3 of the 2015 NLDS. Epic bat flip.